From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) | 31 Days of Horror: Oct 23

by Jovial Jay

Stop by our vampire bar. It’s got six taps, no garlic in the salsa, and it’s open From Dusk Till Dawn!

A surprising action/horror mash-up from the minds that brought you Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, El Mariachi and Desperado. From Dusk Till Dawn puts a somewhat fresh spin on the vampire genre, all the while nudging you with its elbow, making sure you see all the other cool things it’s doing.

Before Viewing

What if Quentin Tarrantino and John Carpenter had a baby? It’d look a little something like this. The first half of the trailer is total Tarrantino, “Okay ramblers. Let’s get rambling.” But soon it takes a dark turn and vampires attack these tough guys played by George Clooney and Tarantino himself. Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Fred Williamson. Directed by Robert Rodriguez. This is one of those films you either love or hate!

Presented below is the trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

From Dusk Till Dawn

From Dusk Till Dawn title card.

After Viewing

In southern Texas, two bank robbing fugitives, Seth and Richard Gecko (George Clooney & Quentin Tarantino) kill a liquor store owner and a Texas Ranger in their pursuit of freedom. They are headed to Mexico to start a new life in El Rey, but Richie’s itchy-trigger finger is making it hard for Seth to stick to a plan.

Elsewhere Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel), his daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) and his adopted son Scott (Ernest Liu) are heading across the southwest in their motorhome after the death of his wife. Since the accident that took her life, Jacob has had a crisis of faith and given up being a preacher. They decide to spend one night at a motel, which happens to be where the Gecko’s are currently in hiding.

After Richie rapes and kills their only hostage (he swears she was trying to escape), Seth grabs the Fullers and their motor home to help them get across the border into Mexico. After a few tense moments, they succeed and head to the meeting spot: the Titty Twister bar.

Inside the bar, which is only open from dusk till dawn, things go from bad to worse; starting with Seth and Richie assaulting the barker out front and then the bouncer. But those are the least of their troubles as the exotic dancers and other workers transform into vampires and begin attacking the truck drivers and bikers. The lead dancer and vampire Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) bites Richie.

From Dusk Till Dawn

Robert Rodriguez’s homage to the iconic shot made popular by Quentin Tarantino: The Trunk Shot.

Two of the patrons Sex Machine (Tom Savini) and Frost (Fred Williamson) manage to defend themselves and join the Fullers and Seth in staking and killing as many vamps as they can. They make pretty quick work of the vampires, but then the bitten bikers begin coming back to life. One manages to bite Sex Machine, which he keeps hidden from the rest of the group.

During another reprieve they all attempt to remember what they know about vampires. Sex Machine changes, biting Frost and Jacob before being flung through a boarded up window allowing dozens of bats to fly into the bar. Jacob makes his kids swear that they will kill him when he turns and the four remaining humans head out to fight the mutant bats turned vampires.

Jacob changes and bites Scott, who begs his sister to kill him, which she does. Seth and Kate begin shooting holes in the blacked out and boarded up windows, allowing the sunlight in killing off the remainder of the vampires. Seth meets with his contact Carlos (Cheech Marin – who played two other characters as well), and he tells Kate to go home and take care of herself as they both drive away, having lost nearly everything. The camera pulls back showing the bar is the top level of an ancient Aztec pyramid, partially buried in the desert floor.

Has anybody here read a real book about vampires, or are we just remembering what some movie said?” – Jacob

From Dusk Till Dawn

The out-of-the-way Mexican bar that is more that it appears.

From Dusk Till Dawn is a frighteningly violent, self-referential and fun film. It takes the new-breed of vampire films which begun a decade previous with Fright Night and The Lost Boys and infuses it with the distinctive voice and style of Quentin Tarantino.

The script to this film was the first script written by Quentin Tarantino. Prior to the film actually being made he would go on to write Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Natural Born Killers and Pulp Fiction, directing both Dogs and Fiction. It feels very much like a Reservoir Dogs-era story, especially the first half with the dialogue and the interactions of Seth and Richie. Meanwhile director Robert Rodriquez was busy making El Mariachi, Desperado, and his story from Four Rooms before taking on this project which he infused with his sense of style. Together, the film is greater than either creator individually, and definitely feels like a mash-up of their styles.

From Dusk Till Dawn

Richie, the Fullers, and Seth look over the debauchery at the Titty Twister bar.

While Tarantino’s script always had the vampire elements in it, the stylistic choices that Rodriguez brought to the scenes in Mexico, with his camera work and casting changed the tone somewhat. The most prominent role is that of Sex Machine, played by Tom Savini. Horror fans will most likely be familiar with that name, as he has provided special makeup effects for films such as Dawn of the Dead and Friday the 13th. He’s acted in a number of films as well, becoming somewhat of a fan favorite.

Overall, from Dusk Till Dawn brings a fun, solid horror-hybrid, with dark humor to the screen. It showcases a number of talents and does something a little different for the vampire genre that was new at the time.

Assorted Musings

  • From Dusk Till Dawn

    Jacob and Seth seek council with Sex Machine and Frost after the initial vampire attacks.

    Besides Carlos, Cheech Marin also plays the Border Patrol agent, and the carnival-like barker outside the bar (who’s also a vampire), Chet Pussy.

  • Some other cameo’s include John Saxon as an FBI Agent on the news (previously seen this year in A Nightmare on Elm Street), and Danny Trejo as the bartender (Razor Charlie) who appears in most every film by Rodriguez.
  • Besides the very Tarantino like dialog (“All right, vampire killers… let’s kill some f**ing vampires.”) Rodriguez utilized on of his signature shots, which is the POV shot of a character in a trunk, with other characters looking down on them from outside the car. This was used in both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. It’s a riff on a similar shots from other films, which Tarantino has made his own.

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